Rod Serling – working at home in Connecticut, 1956
anti-war and social justice activist, tv-writer, producer, narrator
and one of my idols.
*In 1955, the miscarriage of justice in the Emmett Till case proved a galvanizing point in the Civil Rights Movement. Rod Serling, a 30-year-old rising star in a golden age of dramatic television, watched the events play out in the news. He believed firmly in the burgeoning medium’s power for social justice. “The writer’s role is to be a menacer of the public’s conscience,” Serling later said. “He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus the issues of his time.”
Soon after the trial concluded, Serling, riding off the success of his most well-received teleplay to date, felt compelled write a teleplay around the racism that led to Till’s murder. But the censorship that followed by advertisers and networks, fearful of blowback from white, Southern audiences, forced Serling to rethink his approach. His response, ultimately, was “The Twilight Zone,” the iconic sci-fi anthology series that spoke truth to the era’s social ills and tackled themes of prejudice, bigotry, nuclear fears, war, among so many others. At this point in history, the censors didn’t know what to make of this genre and he was free to deliver his message in a new way.
in honor of Rod Serling on national science fiction day,
who understood the power of the arts
as a way to communicate important messages.
“there are weapons that are simply thoughts.
for the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy.”
credits: Getty Images, *Smithsonian Magazine